Saturday afternoon football

I can’t say anything about missing a year of football-watching when the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) hasn’t had (American) football for EIGHT years. Yup, that’s right. Apparently the last time there was any football game played in football gear was in 2005, and the last time there was a youth football league was more than ten years ago in 2002.

Football has been part of me since way back then — started freshman year in the fall of college when I joined the biggest intramural sport on our campus — flag football. Some might call it ‘powderpuff’ — an all girls league.. with contact at the line which always made it a little interesting. I played cornerback and, like all my sports endeavors, wasn’t so great but enjoyed myself. Since then I played recreationally almost every week through all of medical school. Being on a team sets playing football apart in my head. In high school I played tennis which is mostly an individual sport and now even with running (and swimming?) it’s a different vibe. I’ve said in the past when I had a television at my house that it would either be tuned into Food Network or football.. while seemingly a dichotomy, it’s true!

So when I heard there was a football game going on, of course I had to go watch. It was at Airport field and there were bleachers set up. I arrived as the first quarter was just getting underway. I actually had no idea what to expect but there I was, at the CNMI Sharks versus Guam ?Falcons game. (Guam has a football league on its island so this team was a conglomeration of their football all-stars so I don’t think we ever confirmed their official team name ..  but, clearly we never had a chance!) I soon found out that the last time they played each other Guam beat Saipan 88-0. Yeah… if you don’t know football, you still know that’s a BAD score. So bad that you might not even recognize it as a football score.

To sum it up, it kind of felt like I was back in Texas watching a scrimmage between two teams (?a middle school versus high school team) except the players were not kids and there were about 200% more penalties.

IMG_9763Here I am on the sidelines.. you can see the flame trees! CNMI is in the white and gold.

IMG_9767Even the local news channel was there. Definitely something to put in the sports news come Monday (news is only during the weekdays here).

In this morning’s local newspaper.. they highlighted the .. highlights.

From the Marianas Variety, “CNMI almost completed a 30 yard pass with an open receiver in the other end but slipped right out of his hands.”

and from the Saipan Tribune, “Besides the two scoring opportunities, the CNMI Sharks also made two complete passes in the fourth to gain a few yardage, while Vincent Kaipat also ran for a few yards for the host.”

Those missed opportunities might not make the highlight reel on ESPN :)

The game involved a lot of CNMI not quite being fast enough, but the final score was 20-0 which is an improvement. Near the end, we definitely were hoping for something besides a goose-egg to be put up on CNMI’s column — it would have been way too ambitious after an eight year hiatus to ask for a ‘W’! Because of the lack of conditioning, there were plenty of injuries on the field as well. I guess you can’t expect that much because I’m not sure who our team would practice against!

IMG_9769 IMG_9766At least the team looked put together — matching uniforms and full sets of pads. It was also great to see kids watching.. how else will they learn about football?

IMG_9762I was just happy to get to watch some football. It was a historic moment — the return of football to the CNMI! And, we get to be proud of the fact that the score was an improvement on the last one too!  IMG_9765

Here is a picture of a flame tree next to my car. Absolutely gorgeous colors against a perfectly blue (hot) sky!

Good job CNMI Sharks and congrats on what is hopefully your first of many games and the revitalization of football here in the CNMI!

P.S. For those of you wondering about the distance of the swim, it was 2.4 km if you swam straight (which is 1.5 miles) but most people probably swam about a total of 3 km!

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